Death of Lawrence man in Ottawa being investigated as possible fentanyl poisoning

Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 10:36 PM CST
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OTTAWA, KS (KCTV) — Ottawa police are asking for help finding out who provided pills laced with fentanyl to a man from Lawrence who died Tuesday in a home in the 400 block of East Grant Street.

In addition to that death there’ve been two other near deaths in just the past week, including a 17-year-old. Both people were revived with multiple doses of Naloxone, better known by the brand name NARCAN.

Franklin County Attorney Brandon Jones said all three of those cases involved Blue pills marked M-30 that looked professionally made.

“Sharp edges, good imprints and look like something a pharmaceutical company would make,” Jones described. “All of a sudden, just boom, it’s here. Like out of nowhere.”

Jones remembers just a few years ago attending national workshops about fentanyl and thinking, that’s not us. For us, it’s meth. Now, it’s both. He said most of the meth seized in the past six months has tested positive for both meth and fentanyl.

“Very rarely do we have someone die of meth, like an overdose of meth. That just doesn’t really happen,” Jones said. “But then fentanyl shows up. Now we’re seeing it left and right, unfortunately.”

The two close calls this past week are just a snippet of the number of times NARCAN has saved people poisoned by fentanyl in Ottawa recently.

In a news release issued by Ottawa Police on Thursday, they reported using NARCAN on a person found unresponsive in the parking lot of Advent Health Ottawa earlier this month.

Last month, they reported a similar rescue of someone found unconscious in the parking lot of the Walmart in town.

“Now all of a sudden NARCAN, which our officers and ambulances used to carry and never use, now they’re going through it on a regular basis,” Jones remarked.

Police do not have any evidence that those cases are connected.

“It’s really scary. It’s concerning. I’m the father of teenage children,” Jones said. “We don’t want it to get into the hands of kids.”

Police are trying to find out who is providing the deadly drug in the city of just 11,000 people and get them in jail.

“Drug investigations involving Fentanyl are a priority for the Ottawa Police Department Drug Unit,” wrote Police Chief Adam Weingartner in a statement.

To report drug activity in Ottawa, call 785-242-2561 Ext. 4DEU (4338). Anonymous drug tips can be submitted online at When you reach the web page, click on the tip line.

Jones said the person who died this week was found with fentanyl pills in his possession and the circumstances pointed to fentanyl poisoning, but autopsy results have not yet confirmed that suspicion.

In the case of a death caused by an illegal drug, the person who provided the pill could be charged with murder. Kansas law has a statute for felony murder in which a death, even if unintentional, is considered murder if the death resulted from one of several other felonies. Drug distribution is one of them. That’s different from drug trafficking. It can include merely giving the drug to a friend.

“That’s still distribution,” Jones said. “It does not have to be mass quantities. It does not have to be for a profit.”